Showing posts from March, 2013

Even Supercomputers Fade Away

Supercomputers are the pinnacle of current computing technology, but they too can be subject to the seemingly relentless advances that occur in the industry. Five year old Roadrunner, still ranked in the top 30 fastest Supercomputers in the world, is being put out to pasture. It's a tough gig.
The $121 million Roadrunner supercomputer was the first to consistently compute a Petaflop, or a quadrillion mathematical calculations per second, beginning in 2008 and this power has aided research into lasers, viruses, weapons, cosmology and more. Roadrunner takes up 6,000 square feet, uses 278 racks to house its processors and is connected by 55 miles of fiber optic cable.Gizmodo

Computer Vision Is A Tough Gig

When you are able to use all your senses without difficulty, it can be hard to appreciate what we had to go through as infants to get all those things working; lots of trial and error, and a few scraped knees at least. Imagine for a moment how hard it it for a computer to visually recognize something, like a chair. Remember that "seeing" and "recognizing" are two very different things. The seeing part is easy, TV cameras are small and cheap - you can even use two for stereo vision, no problem. 
Now think of all the colors and shapes of  something that we generically call "a chair". All those different objects are chairs; how can you even start to make a computer understand that? "Chairs have 4 legs", you may say "that's a good starting point." - okay, so does a sheep. See where I am going with this? Nevertheless, computer object recognition is improving all the time, and such capability is very important if robots are to be able t…

Hacking In The Movies

I am not a hacker, nor even a programmer. Oh, I have done scripting form time to time, but most people in IT have done that at some point. However, hackers are a special breed in some regards - smart, tenacious and creative. These types of characters have been portrayed in the movies, and are almost always done in an exaggerated manner. The video from Hackaday below lists the Top 10 movie hacking "fails" - portrayals that are nothing like what a hacker actually might do. The criticisms are valid, but I doubt that many movie goers would actually want to see someone fiddling around with lines of code - so the movie maker's attempts to give visual clues or analogies as to what is supposed to be happening is understandable (even while they are pretty silly). The most "realistic" portrayal I can think of in a major movie is probably by the character Trinity in the second Matrix movie.

Internet Privacy? Not So Much Anymore

I don't know that we ever *really* had privacy in the Internet, but for a time at least we had a passable illusion of it. If you think you have privacy now, you don't; deal with it. Everything is up for grabs to some degree, whether from government surveillance, cyber criminals, advertisers, cloud providers or just anyone with the desire and ability to poke around in your stuff for whatever reason. We all have the right to use the Internet and our computer to enjoy communicating, purchasing, recreation, researching, and general information gathering without being subjected to privacy theft, identity theft, and the theft of our money Paul's Internet Security Blog

When Is A Tree Not A Tree?

Why, when it's a disguised cell phone tower of course. People seem fascinated by these sometimes rather dubious looking "trees", and some go out and record their presence in various countries. Yes, there seems to be an international fake tree cartel...

Google Cars Okay, Glasses Not So Much

The work Google has done on self-drive cars has been acknowledged by several US states by passing legislation to allow such vehicles on the public roads. Google glasses may be another matter; West Virginia is moving to ban the use of the high-tech head wear while driving in that state, citing the distraction factor. This bill seeks to make it illegal to drive while "using a wearable computer with head mounted display." CNET

Websites As People

From those nutty people at, a look at how obnoxious social media web sites would seem if they were people (I think it's rather inspired, actually)

If Famous Websites Were People -- powered by

Text-Based Computer Adventure Games

If you are of a certain age, you may recall those text-based adventure games that were big in the late 1970's and early 80's (I know, back with the dinosaurs). With these non-graphical interactive games, your imagination could take you to exotic places and in and out of dangerous situations, much like a good book. Unlike the graphical adventure games that would come later (like the King's Quest series), the text-based games could readily run on any platform. However, a little patience and imagination was required...

Happy St Patrick's Day!


Brazillian Docs Give Each Other The Finger

If you are a busy doctor in Brazil and you need to cover for your colleagues when they can't clock in on time, why not use a prosthetic finger to fool the biometric scanner? It works in movies, right?
The doctor was arrested by the local police following a two-week investigation in the town of Ferraz de Vasconcelos, and was released on Sunday.
Police said she had six silicone fingers with her at the time of her arrest, three of which have already been identified as bearing the fingerprints of co-workers…Dvorak

Might As Well Do It Right...

There's an old saying along the lines of "If you are going to do something, might as well do it right." Video game developer Tyler Owen hopes to do just that with his Mars exploration game Lacuna Passage. The game puts players on Mars as astronaut Jessica Rainer, who is investigating the disappearance of a previous expedition. The goal of the game is to explore, investigate and document the 3D Martian landscape to try and find out what happened to the Hermes and its crew. The neat twist here is that he's using actual Mars landscape data in the game, so the terrain you see will be taken from real data. It's not a simulation, but the topical data should give a authentic vibe to the whole thing. Good call! Mashable

Windows 8: PC Makers Aren't Feeling It

Windows 8 does not seem to be making much of a splash yet, certainly not anything like what PC makers had hoped:

Asked for his take on recent reports that the PC market will continue to contract through 2013, Jun Dong-soo — president of Samsung’s memory chip division — said he doesn’t expect the PC industry to rebound anytime soon. And if and when it does, that rebound won’t be driven by Windows 8.
“The global PC industry is steadily shrinking despite the launch of Windows 8,” Jun said. “I think the Windows 8 system is no better than the previous Windows Vista platform.”
No better than Vista? Too cruel, too cruel. AllThingsD

All Your Base Are Belong To Us!

In the delightfully mangled English of the old "Zero Wing" video game, the hackers at Pwn2Own took down all comers - browsers, Adobe Flash and Oracle's Java.
The Pwn2Own competition at CanSecWest has come to an end with the second day being like the first day. No web browser plugin survived being attacked and Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader XI and Java were all successfully hacked. Vupen security, who had demonstrated exploits of Internet Explorer 10, Firefox and Java on day one, returned with an exploit for Adobe Flash. George Hotz took down Adobe Reader and the day ended with Ben Murphy's exploit of Java, making it the fourth Java "pwning" of the contest. H-Online

Seeing Not Always Believing

A video released recently to YouTube looked like a spiffy UFO encounter - one of those where you know it must be fake, because it looked too good. Isn't that weird, the way we process things like that? If it's blurry and grainy, we argue about what it shows - but conversely, if it looks too good to be true, we assume it is. Now, I will say right off the bat that I really have a hard time with anything "weird" I see on YouTube; it's far too easy produce visual wonders on a laptop these days. Of course, "easy" is relative; you still need an idea and talent to carry it off!

Radiation Shielding - With Poop

That's not a post title I expected to write today - some combinations of words just mess with your mind, y'know? The proposed Mars sightseeing mission announced recently has an ingenious - if icky-sounding - method of killing two birds with one stone; in space travel, cosmic radiation is a problem. Astronaut poop is another - you can't just open a trap door and eject it. So, why not use the poop to help shield from the radiation? I never knew feces was good for anything other than fertilizer, but you live and learn. Necessity, as they say, is the Mother of invention. According to the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, astronauts exposed to heightened radiation levels in outer space risk a variety of health problems, including nausea, fatigue, skin injury, changes in white blood cell counts and the immune system, and – over the longer term – damage to the eyes, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and central nervous system. In other words, a 17-month-long dose of …